Act 2 ©

A Story by Jill Kay

BOBBblog_Act2 by donna&andrewMy grandparents met in 3rd grade.  My parents met in 5th grade.  By the time I graduated from college I felt like an old maid.  I wanted to get married, have kids and raise the “perfect” family – like my parents and my grandparents before them.

When I finally met my future husband, we had what is called a “cute meet.”  Visiting our respectful friends at a beach house one summer weekend, he asked if he could trade his lounge chair for my raft.  The rest was history…2 children, a dream house in the suburbs, a dog, and the white picket fence.

I loved my family.  I loved being a wife and mother.  I loved our life.

Apparently my husband didn’t.  I’ll never forget the words he said the day my world would change forever… “I wasn’t where I said I was last night”.

End of Act 1.

He could have hit me with a sledgehammer and it wouldn’t have been as painful – the wind was knocked out of me.  And, with it, went all my confidence and self-esteem.  I was an empty shell of a person. Eventually I managed to pull it together for my children.

I was ready for my Act 2

Divorced a year later, I moved to another state for a fresh start. It turned out to be a great move (no pun intended).  Next, I needed to go back to work.  I looked for something I could do from home.

At this time, my father was working with a woman who recently started a side business with a company called Arbonne.  She told him how within six months she was making a significant income. My father’s response to her: “Call my daughter”.  My father’s email to me: “This sounds too good to be true…”

But what if it wasn’t?  I was hesitant to get excited, but my wheels started turning with the possibilities of this opportunity.  That night, after speaking with her (even though I knew nothing about the industry and had never heard of the company), I jumped right in. And boy, am I glad I did!

Best.  Decision.  Ever.

JBOBBblog_Act 2_ArbonneI initially started my business for financial reasons but it has given me so much more – I now wear an Invisible Cloak of Empowerment:  when I look in the mirror I see a strong, confident woman.  And, everyone else does, too.

I am happier now than I’ve ever been.  I love my family of 3, I have a wonderful boyfriend, and I love what I do.   And, if I can turn back time and someone should ask me to trade their lounge chair for my raft, I’d still smile, and say “sure”.

Dad, thank you for asking Linda to call me.  Kids, thanks for being my biggest cheerleaders (and yes, Rebecca, you can join my Arbonne business when you’re 18).

And, to everyone reading this, you’re welcome to join me too.  Jump in just like I did….the water is very warm!

photo courtesy  donna&andrew

 

Kindness In Hidden Places ©

An unexpected act of kindness experience by Pauline Hosie

kindnessIt’s Friday night and the 504 bus is stopped in busy traffic.  Nearly 7pm, I will be late.  “It’s okay” I tell myself.  Over the years I have learned to be kind to myself, knowing that everything happens for a reason.  I focus ahead.  Once I spot the Caltex Petrol station, I press the red button.  As the blue “bus is stopping” sign lights up I make my way to the crowded back door.  The slim man in the grey business suit kindly moves across to let me through. “Thank you driver” I call out as the bus stops.

Streetlights guide me to the next corner.  Just as I am about to turn the corner at the mattress shop, my eyes are drawn to the dark, unlit street corner across the road.  A man in a black hooded windcheater is making himself invisible in the darkness.

What is he up to I wonder?

For some reason the hooded man makes me feel uneasy.

“Be kindno judging!“  I tell myself.  As I continue walking I spot the sign ‘Herbalist’.  Taking note of the large crystals in the window, I approach the bright blue door I know will be open.  Through the door and up the narrow stairs, I climb quietly…Nag Champa incense wafts under the closed door.  Too late!   Meditation has started.  I hesitate.  Will I try and enter quietly?  “No” I decide better not disturb the group.

Retracing my steps I wondered why I was guided to attend meditation only to arrive late.  What can I learn from the experience?

kindnessBack at the corner I wait for the traffic light to turn green.  While crossing I noticed the man in the black hoddie still hidden by the shadows.  Again I wondered what he is up too, conscious of his presence even with my back to him.

Just as I am about to cross Victoria Road I realize the elderly man beside me is blind.  When the traffic light changes, I take hold of the elderly gentleman’s arm and marvel at how brave he is to be out alone at night crossing one of the busiest intersection in Sydney.

Cane out in front, the frail gentleman walks slowing and deliberately beside me.  Aware we will not make the crossing in time, I do not hurry.  If impatient drive’s try to hurry us along ~ so be it!  The gentleman beside me deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.  After what appears a long time, my elderly friend and I step onto the pathway on the other side of the road.

“Are you going to be okay?“  I ask him.

“Yes I will be fine”, he insisted, thanking me.

Just as I turn away from the blind gentleman someone grabs hold of my arm.  Shocked, I turn around to hear the words “well done” from the hooded man who disappears into the crowd.  Stunned that I was being observed by the faceless man, I thought kindness lurks in hidden places.

photos courtesy chrissy poicino and pauline hosie

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8mm to VHS to DVD ©

8mm Memories by Ron Turner

8mm1962:  A young father uses the latest consumer technology to film his toddler playing a toy guitar.  He looks through the viewfinder with eyes of love.  The boy, feeling his father’s love, responds with enthusiasm as he glows under the bright movie lights.

1982: Twenty years later, the father views this 8mm film on the silver screen in his basement.  He looks at the images of his son with love.  He positions the VHS video camcorder to convert the images to a modern electronic format.

Then, a tear comes to his eye.  He silently reflects on his son, his own role as a father, and their lives over the past two decades.  He is filled with emotion as he remembers the young father standing behind that 8 mm camera, and the little boy with the toy guitar.

He can’t put it into words, but as he privately allows the tears to flow down his face, safely in the basement where his wife won’t see, his heart is filled with his own goodness and his love for his son and his own younger self.

2012:  Fast-forward thirty more years.  The son takes on the project of converting family videos to digital.  He buys a Sony DVD/VHS device designed for this purpose, and spends the better part of a month shuffling videotape and blank DVDs through the box – using a Sharpie to write descriptions on the plastic, and using a box of Kleenex to deal with the emotional fallout of the project.

He comes across this particular footage.  The only sound is the whirring of a projector in a dark room.  Unseen is the man operating the projector and the implied camcorder trained on the screen. The man’s handwriting is reflected on the VHS label.  His love for his son and his feelings about his life are present in every pixel of every image.

That same love was present in 2012 in Texas when the son reviewed those images – somewhat degraded after the conversion, but retaining all of their power and intensity.  He felt his father’s love from 1962, and from 1982.  Mind you, even though the father had passed away in the intervening years, that love was present in his son’s heart in 2012.

It is the same love present in 1962 felt both by the father towards his son and by the son towards his father.  It was present in 1982 when that father revisited the 8mm film in a basement in Detroit – even though the son was far away in California.

Never mind matter and energy; it is love that can neither be created nor destroyed.  Love transcends time and space and life and death.  Love is eternal.

photo courtesy bs wise; video ron turner

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Catalina Island – Ultimate Beach Town ©

On Catalina Island with Shinazy

catalina islandThere’s a feel to Beach Towns.  I live on the San Francisco peninsula, where I try to live as if I were in a beach town – this takes effort.  Living in a beach town you just connect with other people – that’s simply how you live life.

I’m on Catalina Island, the 26 miles across the sea Santa Catalina Island.  I’m here with my sister and brother, we’re on our Third Annual Sibling Reunion.  We arrived yesterday afternoon from Long Beach, after staying on the Queen Mary.  Once you leave the Catalina ferry dock, you can sense you are in a Beach Town.

We asked the cab driver where he eats when going out and he recommended the Buffalo Nickel.  Our GPS showed it was near to our condo, when actually it was a 20-plus-minute-up-the-hill-no-sidewalk trek.  And, of course, we go lost.  We stopped a man named Campos and asked for directions.  He told us the Buffalo Nickel has a shuttle, he then called them; and told us to wait by the two palm trees.  A few minutes later, a van arrived.  This pick-up service is offered to everyone and when your meal is over; someone in the kitchen will drive you home.  Would this happen in your downtown?  Not mine, but remember this is a Beach Town.

catalina islandThe next morning, while walking to the Zip Line, I stopped a man driving a golf cart, carts are the major mode of transportation on the island, and I asked the man if we could pay him to drive us to the Zip Line.  “No problem, hop in.” and off we went.  It was his day off, he was driving to the store, and although the zip line was out of his way . . . well, this is what folks do in a Beach Town, they do favors for each other and for strangers.  Folks do this without thinking about pay back.

Wherever you are, you can make that place a Beach Town.  But How?  Well, talk to the person behind you while you stand in line.  Chat with the store clerk about something other than what you intend to buy.  Hold open the door for the person entering or exiting.  Offer to take the vacationing couple’s picture.  Try talking to folks you just met  . . . You will be surprised how open people are and how much joy you will get from the conversations.  You, too, can live life in a Beach Town.

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Mom’s Tea Cups ©

A family’s tea cups speak to Bobbi Rankin

tea cupsThe English have a long-standing tradition of afternoon tea.  It’s a social event, a way to meet people and when the chips are down they always find comfort and stability in coming together for tea and cucumber sandwiches.

This ancient tradition was carried over the pond by my great grandmother when her daughter, my grandmother, was very young.  Their destination was a small town in Montana where they settled to live, work and raise their children.  As my grandmother established her own home and family, she made it a point to serve afternoon tea.  Serving tea in the dainty cups and saucers helped to bring to this uncivilized cowboy town, the civility and comfort this tradition represented.

My mother grew up with this tradition flowing through her veins and cherished her own cup of afternoon tea.  I can still see this dignified woman (The 1950’s Woman) holding the saucer in her left hand and with her pinkie poised, the cup in her right.   She would gaze out the window seemingly to remember the afternoon teas spent with her mother.

As the years went on and my parents left Montana to capture a new life in California, my mom brought along her cherished tea cup collection.  This collection no longer sat on an open wooden shelf in the kitchen of their Montana countryside home.  Instead, my mom created a place of honor for those precious porcelain pieces and the memories they inspired.  She purchased a tall, lighted cabinet that proudly displayed her cup and saucer collection.

My mom never lost the place a cup of afternoon tea filled in her daily life, until came the time when this tradition was replaced with jobs and family related restraints.  However, she held onto the pure enjoyment that drinking tea brought her and the place it held in the social gatherings of family and friends.

tea cupsThe day finally came when I had to decide what to do with her collection.  While I do enjoy an occasional cup of tea, I’m a coffee drinker.  When I would drink tea at my mom’s home, I’d gladly use her cup and saucer.  Anywhere else, I’m happy with a mug.  You see where this is going, I’m sure.  Literally, what am I to do with this collection?  My mom kept many things she never used.  I’m one who keeps only what I use and let others have the overflow.

I did find a solution in giving away a set to any members of our family who wanted to treasure my mom’s memory.  I too kept the set I most frequently used when sharing a cup with her.  This English tradition doesn’t flow through my veins but the memory of that time of precious civility and afternoon tea with my mom comes flowing back to me whenever I see the set sitting proudly in the corner of my kitchen, right next to my favorite mug.

photos courtesy  Bobbi Rankin

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Mom Power ©

Shinazy is a mom; here’s her story

mom, motherThis year’s Oscar winner did it.  An Olympic champion does it. The star quarterback will do it. They all mention their mom.

Any utterance of the word ‘mom’ has influence.  We are vested with authority by the simple fact that we are your mother.  This clout defies the Laws Of Physics.  Mom Power is forever and independent of the size of the person.  And, for some of us there will be an event confirming this state of being.

When my children lived at home I only jogged after work.  As with anything we repeatedly do, it came and went without notice until the day I got out of my car and watched a boulder of a young man drop back to catch a football.  He unsuccessfully tried to regain his balance and flattened my fence.

When his friends stopped wrestling to take away the ball, I was spotted.  On each face I saw the panic of, “I’ve been caught; I’d better run.”  And off they went, bulldozing down the street.  And off I went, pursuing them.

My shouts of ‘stop’ made them run fast.  Well, I had just finished a track workout, so I ran faster.  Cars stopped and drivers hollered, “Do you need help?  Should I call the police?”

“No, I’m fine”, as I closed the gap, gaining on the boys.

I’m a long distance runner, I was going to chase them until I caught them.  When this happened, they crumpled gasping for air, terror still reflected in their eyes.  Using my Mom Voice I explained I only wanted them to return to pickup the shattered pieces of wood.

At the start of the cleanup, the leader-of-the-pack asked what else they could do.  My 80-year old neighbor needed her hedge removed, so he divided the group, each one taking a position on either side of our property line.

Standing vigil I marveled at their machine like teamwork; they communicated with various nods and glances.  Occasionally a boy would look at me and I would give the Approving Mom smile.  One boy wanted to leave and he received the Disapproving Mom glare.

It was then my high-school age son arrived home.  He greeted me with darting eyes: me, the boys, me, the other boys.  After a long pause he found his voice and inquired,

“Mom, Why’s the varsity football team in our front yard?”

Immediately I could see it – the line of scrimmage, the Offense, the Defense, and Mom Power … at work, again.

photo courtesy Green Wellies

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Learning For An Aging Brain ©

Aging thoughts by Shinazy

agingThe current info on the brain is that it continues to develop and is capable of learning forever.  We are encouraged to challenge it, to “exercise” our grey matter.  We might buy a few ‘Scientifically Proven Brain Fitness Programs”.  We can learn to dance, play a musical instrument, get a new cell phone, create a blog . . .  the list is infinite.

My friend Ron goes to dance clubs and engages his brain with learning the tango, waltz, and foxtrot.  I tried to Salsa, 1, 2, 3, pause . . .  5, 6, 7, pause (this is the beat for my feet).  I took private lessons because I still cringe from the memory of those 1980s jazzercise classes where everyone else could move their arms and hips and legs and feet in a motion that resembled something other than . . .  I can’t go there, you get the picture.  I Salsa in my home, alone, with no music.  Change anything and I freeze.  Oh, I continue to practice my steps, but I think my brain isn’t being challenged.  So, on to learning something else.

agingAnother friend, Kathleen, resumed her violin practice after decades.  Alas, for me, there’s no becoming a maestro.  I can recite the mnemonic for the five lines and four spaces of musical notes:  EGBDF (every good boy does fine) and ACEG (all cows eat grass), but I have no idea how the notes sound, and you never want to be in a room when I’m singing happy birthday.

Speaking of birthdays, maybe for mine I’ll get a new mobile phone and buy apps; playing with this new technology should keep my brain fit.  In a few months, I’ll let you know how that goes.

That leaves “creating a blog.”

Writing is like an onion, there are many layers.  The layers I fondly call: “What Should I Write About”, “Focus the Topic”, “Tighten the Imagery”, “Edit the Sentence Structure”.  Then, there are the behind-the-scene tech layers: domain name, site hosting, RSS feed reader, dashboard, float alignment, backlinks, gadgets . . . much to learn.

Each of us have items on our ‘bucket list’, most will require us to learn something – I decided to write.  So, for me, happily blogging every day should keep my ageing brain in the learning mode for quite some time.

 photos courtesy  Christian Haugen and kubotake

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Things We Keep ©

Conversations With A Stranger 

A Story by Steven Benjamin

So, there I was, relaxing in the waiting area of the ticket office.  The bus ride was fairly unspectacular, only a tad cold during the night because, as the Sleepliner’s attendant put it: “there’s something wrong with heating system”.  It was late last year, and I’d left an overcast drizzly Cape Town and stepped into the warm sunshine of the nation’s ‘official’ capital.  My ‘contact’ texted me that my hotel shuttle was running on Africa time, prompting me to partake in that age old art of observing people.

I then started chatting with the janitor mopping the floor around me – he was from Zimbabwe.  We then got distracted when a couple moved toward the head of the ticket line – I took them to be Brazilian.  Their negotiations with the clerk soon became a heated debate.  Suddenly, a flurry of activity ensued.  A LOAD of luggage was brought in and placed at our feet.  Lawrence and I exchange looks.  The couple then separated temporarily; the gentleman negotiating with an official outside, whilst the woman continued her quest inside.  From their body language I gathered they weren’t married, tending more toward good friends or distant familial relatives – like he was only there to drop her off.  Also, some unobtrusive eavesdropping led me to reassess my ‘Brazilian’ theory.

Some more remonstrations later, with the administrators sorting through the balls-up, the lady finally had a chance to relax, a few seats away from me as it happened – the seats and floor between us were taken up by all of her eleven large suitcases.

The problem was, she’d booked these suitcases to be transported to Cape Town, only, the price had been inflated once the Bus people discovered she wouldn’t be accompanying the bags… effectively using the bus as a postal service.

Frustrated she took a moment to breath.  Eyeing the bags and then her, I smiled, kept cool, and after giving her a second to chill, I suavely opened with this line: “Is this your whole life?”

She managed a half smile, “Almost; half of it’s clothes and toys for my two kids.”

We started chatting until eventually arriving at the inevitable question, “Where are you from?”

She smiled coyly, tilting her head to one side. “Where do you think?”

Here I had to think.  Through clenched jaws and narrowed eyes I analysed the Atlas in my mind, “Um, somewhere in the Middle East.”

She smiled, suggesting she was impressed, “… Iraq.”

Divorced years ago, she’d relocated her family to South Africa, and was presently relocating again, though that too would be short lived as a job in Europe had opened up.  She wished to stay though, vowing to return as she enjoyed the warm weather and equally warm people.

I was left thinking about the things we keep in life, places we go, people we see, and mostly the people we love.  Materially our lives come down to a dozen or so suitcases, if that.  A few friends experienced this first hand, immigrating to New Zealand – their entire life boiled down to a half filled storage unit – materially anyway.

Back to the lady though, whom I will forever remember with affection… her strength and beauty so richly interwoven, evident even amidst needless frustration on a hot afternoon; she could still smile and engage in an enlightening conversation with a total stranger.

Just before my shuttle arrived, her baggage problems were sorted.  We said our farewells, but not before introducing ourselves:

She said her name was Arwen, like the Middle Earth princess, only she was from the Middle East.

I pray that she and her family are well, wherever they find themselves.

(Note: she told me where she was headed, but I thought that on the off chance she was on the run, I would at least conceal her ultimate destination.)

photos courtesy greebile and charlie phillips

You can see more of Steven Benjamin’s writings at http://stevenbenjamin.weebly.com/blog

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Small Sacrifice ©

Sacrifice through a child’s eye by Cathy Reineke

sacrificeIn a spurt of independence, my seventy-year-old grandmother bought a ticket and boarded a train to see her sister for two weeks.  My stubborn German grandfather stood on the tracks, arms clasped behind his back.  He squinted as the train left the station and disappeared out of site.  He turned to my mother with disbelief in his voice and remarked, “She went.  She really went.”  My mother sighed and retorted, “And you should have gone with her.”

My grandmother agreed to go if my mother would fix my grandfather dinner.  He never learned to cook.  My mother promised he would not starve but left him to solve getting his own breakfast and lunch.  He mostly likely walked to the local dive ordering his greasy brains and eggs as he sat with all his old railroad cronies.

Each night my mother and I drove to visit him, a plateful of hot food wrapped in tinfoil carefully balanced on my eight year old lap.

On the third evening of this dinner- delivery journey, my mom asked my grandfather how things were going.  “What are you eating for breakfast?” she inquired.

“You know, I’ve been eating this new breakfast cereal I found.  It is really different.  But I have acquired quite a taste for it.  I just pour some milk on it but it’s quite crunchy”

My mother’s curiosity rose.  How could a seventy-year-old man think that Cheerios or Corn Flakes could be “really different?”

sacrifice“What is the name of the cereal, Dad?” she responded.

“I am not sure” he exclaimed as he rose from his rocker and headed toward the kitchen.  He rummaged in the cupboard and soon returned.  “It’s called Malto Meal”, he answered proudly holding up the box.

Immediately, I began to protest.  “Mom, Grandpa’s eating . . . ”

My mother quickly turned to shush me with her mom-stare.  She turned back to her dad and smiled.  “ Well, I am glad you are taking care of yourself, Dad.”  With that, she gave him a hug and directed me quickly out the door to the car.

As she started the car, I found my voice again.  “Mom, why is grandpa eating that cereal raw?”, I proclaimed with indignation.  I knew the cereal needed cooking as my father prepared it for us children each morning before school.

“He’s just making a few small sacrifices so grandma can enjoy a few weeks of freedom” my mother answered.  “Cathy, your grandmother has never been on her own vacation before so her time away is very special.  If we tell her about grandpa, she will never allow herself such a vacation in the future.  Grandpa has always been so helpless.  We just don’t want grandma to know how helpless.”

With that, my mother drove away from the curb silently laughing and shaking her head.

We did keep grandpa’s sacrifice a secret from grandma.  She never again took an independent vacation but we often heard reminiscences from her wonderful sojourn.

I am also sure my grandmother cooked the rest of the Malto Meal for my grandfather’s breakfast in the days after her return.  He happily consumed the cereal, totally oblivious to its metamorphosis.

photos by chatchavan & shinazy

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Going To Death Valley ©

Shinazy’s trip to Death Valley

death valley

For four weeks starting mid February the North American desert is in bloom.  Even in the hottest, driest desert, Death Valley is awash in flowers.  Some are tiny; these are the ones you only notice when you bend to tie your shoelaces.  Others hide among the protected thorns offered by otherwise menacing plants.  Regardless if the winter rains make puddles or ponds, the desert will put forth a floral spectacle.

Appreciating the desert’s Spring display was among the lessons my grandparents, Gigs and Bussie, taught me.  From age six to sixteen, I accompanied them into the California deserts to hunt for unusual rocks and survey the annual color splash.  Our camping trips were simple excursions.  The day before our departure, Bussie would pack the station wagon with survival provisions.  I was an observant and helpful child, so now as an adult I thought I too could attempt a similar journey.

As with any journey I started with a plan: what clothes to pack, route to take, canned rations and tools to bring.  For weeks, every time a needed item passed through my thoughts I’d add it to The List.  Since I was going alone into the Death Valley wilderness I had to ensure I remembered everything – if I did not bring it, there was no place to get it.

Part of the fun concerning this trip was to duplicate how my grandparents travelled, so I left the GPS and cell phone at home.  I never went online to plot my route.  With confidence, a paper map, and my one-‘n-only credit card I set off to rough-it in the outback.  The only thing I needed to buy was gas.  I was prepared!

death valley300 miles into the trip I encountered the first flaw in The Plan.  What my memory neglected to tell me was my grandparents only used cash; plastic money had yet entered their lives.  With teaspoons of gas remaining in my truck’s tank, the station attendant reproached me, “Your card’s no good.”   I never carry cash; I get frequent flyer miles charging … everything.

The word ‘stranded’ seized my mind.  What was an electronically dependent girl masquerading as a pioneer to do?  A frantic call to CitiBank, who informed me, “Your card was hacked.”  This news told me why my only source of currency was corrupted, but did not help me buy fuel to resume my expedition.  However, after I answered every security question about my life since birth, CitiBank agreed to allow me to purchase gas, but absolutely nothing else.  And, I had to call them before every purchase.  It was then I realized, “Maybe some of the old timer ways had benefits.”

With the credit card crisis cured I continued, knowing this one lapse in judgment was the only mistake I made.  Although I had no paper money I did have a paper map.  But time had a surprise for me.  It seems today’s paper maps show less detail because “everyone has GPS.”  No longer able to navigate my route, I asked a local for directions.  This was my second faulty plan omen.  After missing the you-can’t-miss-it intersection, it started to snow.  I travelled up and up, mile after mile.  The smaller the hole on the windshield became the more petrified I became.

Was panic going to turn me to stone before the zero temperature?

Where was a turn-off so I could escape?

What would my grandparents do?

death valley

Twelve hours, three snow flurries, and two gas refills after departing home I arrived at my campsite where I would build a fire and evaporate the day’s troubles.  But, alas, the National Park Service had another plan.  Posted on the sunburned table was a sign, “No Campfires”.

As I stood there in the Death Valley blackness, shrouded in every thread I packed, listening to my stomach symphony, I wondered . . . Did I pack the can opener?

photos courtesy shinazy & calsidyrose

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